“Ignorance is bliss,” the poet Thomas Gray wrote 275 years ago, referring to the joyful innocence of youth.
It’s decidedly less appealing in the form of a factually illiterate senator hectoring a hearing witness, as happened this week when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.) attempted her typical badgering routine based on her own misunderstanding.
Warren betrayed in her questions to Lori Reilly, who was representing the pharmaceutical drug industry, a complete misunderstanding of the difference between a drug patent, which has a term of 20 years, and a separate 5-year data exclusivity period granted by the government under some circumstances.
As Reilly attempted to explain this distinction, Warren interjected: “Try the story on someone else who’s going to be willing to listen to it.”
Try your facts elsewhere, subject matter expert, this senator cannot be bothered.
Then, seeming to realize she was in hot water, Warren panic exited, quickly yielding her remaining questioning time before Reilly was ever able to correct the record.
Now, you wouldn’t expect the average person to know all of the different legal protections available for intellectual property and how they apply to various classes of pharmaceutical drugs. But you would expect a United States senator trying to portray an industry as an evil villain to have command over the basic facts of what she’s talking about.
And you would especially expect that senator, when confronted with their embarrassing ignorance on the subject they are in the process of demagoguing, not to respond by telling a congressional hearing witness they “aren’t willing to listen to it.”
According to her questions, Warren could stand to do some substantial listening about how the drug industry works.
Before even arriving at her moment of proud obliviousness, Warren had already butchered the issues in service of a tidy anti-market narrative.
She started with the liberal canard that free-market advocates should endorse drug reimportation, since it would be increasing competition.
Perhaps we shouldn’t assume she knows why this is asinine and stupid, given the subsequent back-and-forth, but anyone with basic literacy in health policy does. Since almost every other country on earth imposes price controls on drugs, drug reimportation would simply bring the artificial and arbitrary foreign government-set prices to the U.S.
Then Warren continued on the same path, demanding drug price “negotiation” to lower prices. Again, this rhetoric is normally deployed cynically, since 1) a government “negotiating” when it also regulates and taxes the industry it’s negotiating with is utterly unlike any other market participant, and 2) the Congressional Budget Office has formally scored this as saving zero dollars, but it’s possible Warren simply doesn’t know that.
Perhaps before the next time, she goes for the jugular in a hearing, Warren will learn something about the subject she’s talking about.
Megan Barth is the founder and proprietor of ReaganBabe.com and a nationally recognized political commentator. She is a weekly cohost for WAR-The Wayne Allyn Root Show out of Las Vegas.
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